Optimize Zoom Audio Settings for a Remote Music Lesson

During the coronavirus self-quarantine, my kids have been taking advantage of video conferencing for many of their classes. In the very brief video below,  I go through a few of the settings I select in Zoom to optimize the audio quality for my daughters’ piano lessons.

If you’re a music teacher or student, the most important thing you can do to improve your audio is to invest in a relatively inexpensive external microphone. The built-in microphone in your laptop or desktop computer has very poor audio quality, especially for playing music live over the internet.

Built into Zoom is an audio enhancement feature that reduces background noise, cancels echo, and utilizes a particular audio codec meant more for spoken voice rather than the dynamic nature of music. This feature is on by default, and though it’s excellent for regular conference calls, it adversely affects the quality of the sound of a musical instrument over the Zoom call.

The two main setting we need to change are:

1) disable the audio enhancements and preserve the true original sound of the microphone.

2) disable automatic volume control so that the dynamics changes in a piece of music come through.

Keep in mind that if you enable original sound, you lose the benefits of Zoom’s built-in audio enhancements, so if you’re in a music class in which you’re both speaking and playing your musical instrument (or singing), you should toggle the on/off switch for original audio located in the upper left of the Zoom meeting.

I hope this helps you have better remote music lessons and an easier time keeping up your school routine during this time.

Thanks,

Phil

29 thoughts on “Optimize Zoom Audio Settings for a Remote Music Lesson

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  1. Looks like today’s (4/8/20) iOS update to the Zoom client (4.6.10) now supports the “original sound” setting, and also puts all the security options in one place in settings.

    My wife is a piano teacher and has been setup for distance lessons for over a year, yet we keep learning new tips and tricks for optimizing the process – especially in the current situation. Thanks for your well written article!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much. Very usefull.
    I have a problem with the Zoom H2 mic.
    I use it like usb mic on mi iMac.
    But the other partecipant hear an alterate voice, like a duck.
    How can I solve this serious problem?
    Thank in advance.

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    1. It could be that you don’t have the correct microphone chosen in your audio settings. I’d start by doublechecking that. Also, you may have an issue if your mic has a pre-amp built-in, but I’m not sure.

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  3. Hi,
    Using my Samsung A70 with Zoom for sharing with other musical instrumentalists. The sound keeps dropping out with rare and temporary exceptions.
    I can find no Audio settings on my phone version of the app. I’d really like to get this sorted, it has so much potential these days.
    Mel

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  4. Hi Phil. How do I “open up the zoom client” to get to the audio settings you mentioned? Does zoom client refer only to desktop/laptop Zoom? FYI, I’m using an iPhone and/or Ipad, and there is NO audio settings tab within the main SETTINGS…. does it matter what version of Zoom I use? can one NOT make these kind of changes to audio settings at all in the free version of Zoom, or am I just using the wrong kind of device to start a zoom meeting? Thanks, I’m just having trouble putting any of your good suggestions to use….

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    1. Unfortunately I believe these settings are only available on the desktop/laptop version of the software. Hopefully they’ll roll this out to mobile devices at some point, but for now to have the best audio experience when it comes to music, you’ll need to use the app on a desktop/laptop.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry if I missed this, but is it necessary for all participants on the call to make the changes suggested or just the host of the conference? We have several people on the call but only one plays at a time (clarinet). Thanks!

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    1. Yes – anyone playing music over Zoom will need to make the same changes to their own audio settings – not just the host. Anyone who is NOT playing music doesn’t need to make the changes.

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  6. Hi, this is useful info, but I’ve been running into a problem giving bass lessons where the sound of the bass will drop out entirely after a couple notes from my students, then sometimes fade back in. It seems like a limiter is getting hit. It didn’t happen for one student, but did for the other two I’ve given lessons to this week. Any thoughts or ideas? Could it be an actual laptop setting vs. a Zoom setting?

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    1. Have you made sure the student has the settings to not have Zoom automatically control the volume? What you’re describing is exactly what happens when Zoom automatically adjusts the volume. (There may be some onboard processing happening on their end as well, but wanted to check the obvious.)

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  7. Thank you for this post! I’ve been conducting free live dance fitness classes, and recorded a session because my students’ feedback has been the fact that the music fades every now and again. I’m using an external speaker. When I recorded the session, I was able to experience the fading they were describing. Has anyone found a way around this?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. one thing you can do is play the music on your computer and then share that sound through the Zoom meeting. You do that by selecting Share screen at the bottom, and then when you are prompted to select a screen to share, make sure to check the box to share computer sound (bottom left). The only issue there is that you will be sharing your computer screen at that point. Play with the settings, though, and you will find that you can still the ability for you and your students to see each other.

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      1. On the Share screen there are tabs at the top Basic, Advanced and Files. If you choose the Advanced tab there is a box you can choose to just share your computer sound and not your screen when you hit the Share button.

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    1. I’ve found that it doesn’t work that great when multiple people all play at the same time because everyone has a slightly different internet connection (slight lag for some but not others) and different microphone. But I’m not a music teacher, so it could be that someone out there figured out how to do it well.

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  8. Hi, I’m a professional DJ and was asked to play for a dance party that people could enjoy. I was using the microphone on my tablet to catch the music I was playing from my DJ console and computer. The sound was ok but I wanted to have it so the music was fed directly into the ZOOM feed. My DJ computer and console cannot and have not touched the internet directly – ever. I have a left and right RCA output from my console. How can I send the signal to the ZOOM feed? RCA to HDMI? RCA to Ethernet? And then into my computer then into a ZOOM app?

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    1. I’m not the author of the blog, but I wonder if you could use an RCA Y-adapter to combine the left/right RCA outs from your console, then a RCA-to-1/8″ adapter to get it down to cable that could plug into your mic input on your Internet-connected computer. You would certainly want to follow the instructions to tell Zoom to not automatically correct your audio volume. No guarantees it would work, but that’s what I would try.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks that was very helpful. We just did a little concert on zoom and the sound was awful 😦 I wish we had read this sooner!! Alas, next time.

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  10. Thanks for putting this up at the right time Phil. I needed to remote in to a distanced PC and broadcast my voice in high quality. Googled a solution and you came up. Much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Is there anything that WOULD work for group rehearsals? I am not doing it, (just cello, although duets or playing piano along with a kid would be awesome). A lot college faculty colleagues and high school teachers are looking everywhere. It may not exist in affordable fashion right now but, the day it does, there will be a payday for someone and a lot, lot, lot of happy music teachers!!!

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  12. This is GREAT information! Do you know if there are similar settings in the Android or iOS apps? I looked in Android and didn’t see any such granular control over the audio. Would settings in the desktop/laptop account carry over on the same account when using zoom on Android/iOS?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mobile devices don’t have the same ability to control advanced audio settings as the desktop app, but I know some people at Zoom so let me see what I can find out – maybe there’s something that can be done to enable it on Android/iOS apps as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. David Boyd just added a comment for this post that today’s Zoom update for the iOS client now supports the “original sound” option. Unfortunately, I don’t see that yet in Android.

      Like

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